Author and associate professor of African politics at the University of Oxford Blessing-Miles Tendi has dismissed the narrative that Vice President Constantino Chiwenga is responsible for the intimidation and crackdown on opposition politicians and supporters. Tendi said the crackdown is actually a coordinated effort as Zanu-PF is proving that it will hold onto power by any mean necessary, despite President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s claims of reform. Writes Tendi,
…another misguided narrative has emerged abroad, seeking to absolve Mnangagwa of responsibility while blaming the army’s activities on Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who was the commander of the military during the November 2017 coup against Mugabe. For example, Joseph Cotterill, writing in the Financial Times, argues that the “brutality bears hallmarks” of Chiwenga and suggests there is a split in government between supposed hard-line military men such as Chiwenga and moderates such as Mnangagwa. Kate Hoey, the chair of Britain’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe, seems to have accepted this theory, too. She declared, “there should be no change to [European Union] or [U.K.] or American government policies to Zimbabwe government until at the very minimum Chiwenga is removed from his vice presidency and his control of the military.”
…political violence has traditionally been a tool employed by Zanu-PF to deal with both internal and external opposition. The party has used security services, war veterans, and youth militias to conduct violent political campaigns on various occasions since the country’s independence in 1980.
…Political violence in Zimbabwe is rarely random. It is calculated and tightly controlled from the centre, under the president and commander in chief’s authority…There is presently no compelling evidence demonstrating a breakdown of the chain of command. Mnangagwa is therefore not a powerless president besieged by Zanu-PF and military hard-liners advocating the use of political violence. Despite his measured words in public statements, he is, in fact, central to the planning and authorization of the violent suppression of the opposition currently occurring in Zimbabwe.
…What foreign officials have failed to appreciate is that when Zanu-PF’s hold on power is threatened, the party is prepared to suspend economic rationality and abandon the pursuit of diplomatic and financial normalization until it re-establishes, by any means necessary, complete domestic political control. That is precisely the scenario that is playing out in Zimbabwe today.